State & Regional

How president's conservative SCOTUS pick could shape Texas politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — President Donald Trump's pick for the United States Supreme Court could solidify the high court's stance on several Texas cases the justices could face.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. He once clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced earlier this month he would retire.

The high court currently has four liberal-leaning justices and four who are traditionally conservative. Kennedy served as the swing vote, siding with the right on campaign spending, voting rights and gun control. He landed left on the death penalty, gay rights and abortion. Kavanaugh's nomination would tilt the court even further right, likely leading to more conservative values in the court's rulings.

"The last time we had such a solid conservative majority on the Supreme Court was the 1930s, when America was coming out of the New Deal, where you had all these aggressive efforts by Congress that were actually being hamstrung by the Supreme Court," University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said.

Kavanaugh is described as someone who tends to be more combative toward federal regulations, Vladeck said, noting that those decisions are oftentimes promoted as being good for states.

"The reality on the ground, especially in a state like Texas, is that... if you don't have federal regulation, you're not going to have state regulation either."

Kavanaugh's influence could come quickly. Texas has a stake in cases that are working their way through the federal court system, like legislation surrounding abortions.

"The dismemberment bill that I filed and passed out of the House that was ultimately amended in S.B. 8... reaffirms the right that Texas has to protect its unborn," State Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said on television program State of Texas ahead of the president's announcement.

Planned Parenthood Texas Votes executive director Yvonne Gutierrez said access to abortion has already been "decimated."

"We're at a point now in this country where the option to access abortion safely and legally is on the line," Gutierrez said. "That is a very clear and present threat with this SCOTUS vacancy."

Vladeck said the conservative ideology will show its strength if Kavanaugh is confirmed by the Senate.

"We're going to see decisions that tend to be more in line with what has become the dominant conservative ideology of the last 30 years, that's going to have an impact on everything from workers' rights, to federal regulations of cars, planes, everything around us, privacy and surveillance, really it runs the gamut of potential impacts," Vladeck explained.

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called the nomination "an outstanding pick."

"He is what you might expect from this president, based on his nomination of Justice [Neil] Gorsuch," Cornyn mentioned. "I think very similar judicial philosophy and approach to judging: one that believes it's not the judge's responsibility to make public policy or legislate from the bench, but to decide individual cases and apply the existing laws written by Congress or precedents of the court."

Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert said he would have preferred one of the president's other options.

"I might have liked to have had Justice Coney Barrett," Gohmert, R-Tyler, said, before asserting that Kavanaugh would uphold conservative philosophy.

Meanwhile, Texas Democratic Party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said Kavanaugh would "fail to be an independent check on Trump."

“Texas Democrats will fight like hell to stop Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination because we must protect the Affordable Care Act, women’s rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, unions, DREAMERs, the environment, our diverse communities — and children who are being torn away from their parents,” Hinojosa said in a statement.

Kavanaugh's wife, Ashley, is from West Texas, according to Republican U.S. Rep. Jodey Arrington, who represents Lubbock, Abilene and Big Spring. She attended the University of Texas at Austin, State Rep. Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said in a tweet.

More Stories

Latest News